"Hidden Addictions" are not that common in general. Unlike alcohol and drugs that injure the brain and eventually the addict will "slip up" and show signs of their illness (they are not "hidden" any more), the "hidden" addictions are evasive to the human eye.
Sex addiction is a behavioral problem Sex addicts cannot seem to control their craving for sexual intimacy and this leads to progressively more damage in their lives. Over time, the negative impacts increase and the sex-seeking behavior escalates.
Potential Harm of Sex Addiction
Damaging behaviors may be an excess of otherwise accepted activities – such as compulsive masturbation, pornography, phone sex or ‘cybering’ (computer sex). Others cross boundaries and their compulsion leads to illegal activity – flashing (exhibitionism), peeping/hidden cameras (voyeurism), obscene and unwanted phone calls or chat, stalking and harassment. Even child molestation or rape may be seen.
- Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts.
- About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. For many, their problems are so severe that imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them.
- For most sex addicts, however, it is the social harm and not the criminal consequences that lead them to seek treatment for sex addiction. Adultery, a series of failed relationships, or the inability to form relationships at all might be enough for someone to seek treatment.
Medical classification of sex addiction
Because sex addiction isn’t listed as a standalone diagnosis, patients may be classified according to the particular sexual practice they prefer.
- Nymphomania - Properly
called hypersexuality, nymphomania refers to the female form, while satyriasis
used for the male. This is characterized by a lack of inhibition for increased
sexual desires. The colloquial expression would be, “Anywhere, at any time,
- Sexual Mania - This
is classified under bipolar disorders and arises during the manic phase. It is
characterized as hypersexuality that manifests cyclically.
- Compulsion/obsession - The
fixation on an unattainable partner, with or without surrogate sex. Stalking
behavior is the result. Not necessarily a sex addiction because there may not
be a sexual component, although masturbation and fantasy are possible.
- Impulse control disorder - This
might be diagnosed based on behavior where the sex addict seeks multiple
partners in known, risky situations. They ignore the dangers of disease and
- Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified - This
is the catch-all for other behaviors that would fall under sex addiction. An
example would be chronic and compulsive masturbation.
Sex addiction typically causes the addicts thinking to be distorted and they will often rationalize their behavior in some way. Sex addicts will even blame others for their problems or their sexual actions rather than take the blame or accept that they were the doers of their actions. Most will deny that their interaction with sexual activities are a problem thus denying that they are an addict.
As sexual addictions progress, the behaviors that the addict takes place in will often progress as well. For instance, in the early stages of sex addiction, an individual may simply watch many hours of pornography. In time, this addiction may turn into the individual taking part in online sex groups that cost money. This can even progress to a desire or intense sensation to go out and perform these acts in public which can lead to promiscuous activity which poses a significant danger to the addict in terms of physical harm, disease or other problems.
Signs of Sex Addiction
Early on, the signs of sex addiction may not be extremely easy to see but as time goes on, the signs will typically become more prevalent. Because sex addiction tends to progress rapidly and move from small discreet actions on to major, noticeable behaviors, you may recognize the following signs in an individual who is addicted to sex:
- compulsive masturbation or stimulation
- extra-marital affairs or multiple affairs in a non-married relationship
- multiple one nigh stands
- excessive and consistent use or pornography
- practicing unprotected, unsafe sex
- cybersex either over the phone or online
- prostitution or purchasing the services of a prostitute
- dating excessively for the ability to have multiple sexual partners
- voyeurism or watching others have sex
- sexually harassing others
Consequences of Sex Addiction
Many different consequences can result from an individual’s inability to control their sexual addiction. Some of the most common consequences of sex addiction include:
- Financial consequences. From poor productivity at work because an individual has nothing but sex on his or her mind to money spent on sex through prostitution, cybersex, phone sex or online sexual fantasy chat rooms, there is great stress financially that can come from sex addiction.
- Health consequences. Individuals who suffer from sex addiction are likely to take part in promiscuous activity which can lead to unwanted pregnancy, STDs such as AIDs or hepatitis, or rape
- Social consequences. Sex addiction can lead to adverse social interactions. Many sex addicts will not interact socially because they spend their time taking part in cybersex while others may be over pushy or too sexual when in social interactions which can lead to social upset.
- Emotional consequences. Sex addiction is a disease and many sex addicts, despite their desire to quit taking part in extreme sexual activity, are unable to on their own. This leads to failure and emotional upset that can linger and cause depression or anxiety for the addict.
Myths & Facts About Sex Addiction
Myth: People with good morals will not suffer from sex addiction
Fact: Your morals are not a direct impact on whether or not you suffer from sex addiction. If your sexual behavior takes you out of the realm of your own values or beliefs, then this could be affecting your morals and you may feel bad, but there is help.
Myth: Only med are sex addicts
Fact: While the majority of sex addiction sufferers are men, there are signs that about 20% of those suffering from sex addiction are actually women. Unfortunately, it can be more difficult for a woman to address her sex addiction due largely in part to the majority of the support groups and treatment options being geared to men.
Myth: Sex addiction affects all gay men
Fact: Sex addiction is not secluded to gay men, a particular minority or a singled out type of person. Sex addiction can affect heterosexual males, gay males, heterosexual women and gay women alike.
A simple desire to scratch a ticket, play a slot or visit a casino is not necessarily a sign of gambling addiction but when this desire is so compulsive that you just can’t stop thinking about it until you take action, there may be a problem in your life.
Gambling addiction is characterized by a compulsive desire to gamble that is marked with an inability to control behaviors when gambling. Those who suffer from gambling addiction will continue to gamble (either daily or possibly just on a binge) despite negative financial, legal and social consequences.
Many people who are addicted to gambling will do things that they never would have done if it weren’t for their addiction such as stealing money from friends or family members or taking part in illegal activities in an effort to get more money either to gamble or to pay debts. Despite a desire to quit, many compulsive gamblers are unable to control their actions without help. The impulsive behaviors often get them into trouble and can lead to serious consequences.
Signs of Gambling Addiction
Often referred to as a “hidden illness” gambling addiction has no obvious physical signs or symptoms that can be quickly or easily spotted. Problem gamblers often go unnoticed for many years before the signs of the addiction finally become evident even to close friends and family members. In fact, because many gambling addicts are able to control their behaviors the majority of the time, it could be very difficult to spot a gambling addiction unless you physically go with the gambler into a situation in which they are actually gambling, then you may quickly realize that they are out of control.
The following behaviors are all potential signs of gambling addiction:
- being preoccupied with gambling, playing lotto, going to the casino, gambling online, etc
- avoiding obligations at work, school, home or socially in order to spend time gambling
- avoiding friends or family members who have voiced concern of a potential gambling addiction
- financial hardships such as loss of house, car, job, or other possessions to gambling
- stealing money to gamble or to pay debts
- selling possessions to acquire money to gamble or pay debts
- inability to control behaviors despite a desire to have such control
- neglecting expenses such as bills or other financial obligations in order to gamble
- sneaking around, telling lies about gambling or otherwise masking a potential problem
- denying actions or minimizing problems
Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction
The devastation that gambling addiction can wreak on the life of those who suffer from this illness as well as those around him make this a very dangerous disorder to be reckoned with. Compulsive gambling accounts for as much as five billion dollars spent annually in the United States alone. Many of the people who are addicted to gambling find themselves accruing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
The negative effects of problem gambling include:
- Financial problems including high debt, poverty or bankruptcy
- Domestic violence and child abuse in families
- Suicidal thoughts, actions or actually committing suicide
- Legal troubles including arrests for theft or prostitution
- Behavior problems in children of problem gamblers
What is Internet Addiction?
Internet addiction is a growing epidemic characterized by a compulsive desire to interact online through internet gaming, gambling, cybersex, social networking or compulsive surfing of the web. According to Dr. Kimberly Young, the first psychologist to document internet addiction, these disorders are similar to impulse-control disorders. Meeting five of the following symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of internet addiction disorder:
- Feeling preoccupied with the internet. (thinking about your previous online activity or anticipating the next time you will go online)
- Feeling a desire to use the internet for increased amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction with your use of the web. (similar to tolerance that is addressed in substance abuse problems)
- Having a lack of control in efforts to stop using the internet or to cut back use.
- Feeling restless, irritable, depressed or otherwise moody when not using the internet.
- Staying online longer than you originally planned to.
- Jeopardized a job, relationship, educational opportunity or other important opportunity because of the internet.
- Lying to friends, family members or others in an effort to conceal the true amount of time that you spend online or your actual activities while online.
- Using the internet as a way of escaping reality, escaping problems or relieving a negative mood.
Types of Internet Addiction Disorders
An addiction to the internet can come in various forms. Most of the time, internet addiction is characterized by the activity that an individual is taking part in while they are online such as shopping, socializing or gaming. Internet addiction disorder includes:
- Net Compulsions – this includes compulsive gambling, gaming, shopping, trading stocks or other obsessive use of the internet that interferes with your work or home, relationships or financial well-being.
- Cybersex Addiction – compulsive use of the internet to take part in adult chat rooms, fantasy role playing sites, or to watch internet pornography.
- Cyber-Relationship Addiction – taking part in social networks, chat rooms and virtual messaging online to a point in which these online relationships mean more than real-life relationships with friends or family members.
- General Computer Addiction – obsessively playing on the computer, not necessarily online. This may include playing games such as Solitaire or programming a computer obsessively.
- Compulsive Web Surfing – obsessively surfing the web or a database to a point in which you take time from your friends, family members or regular daytime tasks at work or home.
Most internet addiction disorders are the result of cybersex, online gambling or gaming, and cyber-relationships.
Recognizing the Difference Between Healthy & Unhealthy Internet Use
Not all users who surf the web will become addicted to the internet and, excessive use of the internet is not always associated with addiction. There are many ways that the internet can be used in a healthy way and in some cases, even excessive use of the internet is safe. The internet provides us with a constant, ever-changing source of entertainment, information and tools that is accessible through computers, smart phones, tablets, laptops and other hand-held devices.
Symptoms of Internet Addiction
The symptoms of internet addiction may not be visibly present or a person may only show a few of the signs of internet addiction. There is not a set amount of time spent online each day that can be used to describe the presence of an addiction to the internet. This amount of time will be different for each individual.
Some of the symptoms of internet addiction include:
- Spending more time online than you even realize. Do you often find that you wind up online longer than had anticipated? If you find that your planned time online goes from being a few minutes to actually spending hours online, you might have a problem.
- Isolating yourself from friends or family members to spend time online. Do you spend more time socializing online than you do in real life? You might have an addiction to the internet if you are isolating yourself from friends or family members in order to spend time online.
- Becoming defensive about your time spent online. If you feel like you have to be defensive about the time that you spend online or you feel like you have to lie to your friends or family members about what you are doing online than you might have a problem.
- Difficulty completing tasks at work or at home because you spend too much time surfing the web. If you have trouble focusing on your priorities or you find that your time online has made you slack on your tasks at work or at home you you may be suffering from an internet addiction.
- Euphoric feelings when involved with internet activities. Do you use the internet to reduce stress, gain sexual gratification or excitement? If you use the internet to boost your mood or to feel better you may have a problem.
What are the Causes of Internet Addiction?
People become addicted to the internet for a number of different reasons. Most of the time, the urge to compulsive use the internet is the result of a desire to manage unpleasant feeling such as depression, anxiety, stress or loneliness. Some feel socially inept in the real world and turn to social media interaction as a means of feeling close to people, while others may lose themselves online in an effort to temporarily feel better. Unfortunately, the internet, when used compulsively, can lead to many consequences.
Some causes of internet addiction include:
- Self-medication for a mental health disorder. Many people use the internet to mask anxiety, depression, or other mental illness.
- Information addicts. Some people have an intense hunger for knowledge and the internet provides immediate access to tons of information that can be very attractive for information addicts.
- Anxiety or social disorders. Some people have anxiety when they are face to face with people or suffer from other social disorders that make it difficult for them to interact in real life but easier to interact online.
- Loneliness. Many people, especially those who do not have a companion, interact online to fulfill a void that causes them to feel lonely.
- Shifting from a real world addiction. Many people who suffer from a real world addiction to shopping or gambling will shift their addictions to an online version such as internet gambling or excessive shopping online.
Effects of Internet Addiction
In many ways, internet addiction can be compared to an addiction to drugs or alcohol in that, internet addiction causes a desire to use the internet more and more in order to produce a satisfactory effect. This is similar to the way an alcoholic may need to drink more alcohol in order to feel the benefits of the substance or the way that a drug addict may use more drugs in an effort to produce the same “high.” Internet addicts become dependent on the use of cyberspace in order to feel normal.
Internet addicts struggle to control their behaviors and often experience great despair over their consistent failure to escape their addictive behaviors. A loss of self-esteem and a burning desire to escape can lead the addict further into their addiction sending them into a whirlwind of social anguish, relationship failure and emotional pain. In the end, the internet addiction will cause a sense of powerlessness for the addict.
What is Food Addiction?
Food addiction is a disease similar to drug or alcohol addiction in which a chemical reaction in the brain is triggered by a certain behavior.
With food addiction, the behavior that triggers the reaction is eating a particular food or a particular amount of food. This addiction manifests itself in the uncontrollable cravings that one has for excessive eating and typically involves eating salty, sugary or carbohydrate rich foods for satisfaction.
The cravings that a food addict will have to eat are so strong that the addict cannot control them and in many cases, food addiction will lead to a deteriorated quality of life. Physical, emotional
, social and spiritual happiness and well-being are all affects by food addiction. Once an individual who is addicted to food eats and experiences the “high” or pleasurable state that they feel when they are done eating, they will quickly feel the need to eat more or to eat again to feel that feeling.
Tolerance can build as an individual eats more and this can lead to a desire to eat even when they are already full. In fact, tolerance can result in an individual’s need to consume more and more food with less and less satisfaction from their eating over time. Because of the tolerance that builds, scientists believe that food addiction plays an important role in obesity and in the struggle to lose weight.
Food Addiction Symptoms
The symptoms of food addiction affect an individual physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Food addicts gain pleasure from the anticipation of eating, the availability of food or from actually eating food. This pleasure leads to excessive eating, typically of the wrong types of foods, that can lead to increased weight gain, poor self-image, and a range of other medical conditions. Often times, food addicts do not even realize that they are addicted to food as their addiction and improper eating habits have simply become a way of life.
Early detection of a food addiction is vital to the successful recovery for the individual. Further, the sooner that one realizes the need for help, the least chance there is for negative consequences to have set in such as extreme weight gain, physical illness or other problems that are associated with eating too much or consuming the wrong foods.
Not all food addictions result in weight gain though. In some cases, an individual’s decision to consume large amounts of food is followed by excessive exercising, vomiting or use of laxatives to eliminate or reduce that number of calories that were eaten. This is known as bulimia. In other cases, excessive eating is followed by instances of limiting food for days or even weeks at a time which is a form of anorexia. Both of these eating disorders are characterized by an addiction in some manner to food and can lead to extreme weight loss.
Physical Food Addiction Symptoms
- Inability to control cravings for food or to control amount of food that is eaten
- trying many different weight loss or diet programs but still excessively consuming food
- vomiting, using laxatives or exercising in excess to avoid weight gain as a result of over consumption of food
Each of these physical symptoms of food addiction can lead to long term consequences. Those who vomit regularly to overcome the fact that they ate a large amount of food are likely to suffer from tooth decay, esophageal problems, malnutrition and a range of other issues as a result of their addiction. In time, an obsession with food, whether it’s an obsession with not eating, overeating and dieting to cover it up or using diuretics or other methods to reduce weight from overeating, a food obsession can lead to rash physical problems and could even result in death if left untreated.
Social Symptoms of Food Addiction
- eating behind closed doors to prevent others from seeing what you are eating or how much
- avoiding social interactions because you feel like you cannot be around others due to a lack of ability to control your eating
- avoiding social interactions because you don’t feel like you look good enough or have clothes that fit correctly due to your eating habits
- stealing food from others
- obsessing over food and paying more attention to the food that is being served than to those friends or family members who you will be consuming the food with
Socially, food addiction leads to an intense obsession with food that can distract us from the things that really matter such as spending time with friends or family members. In time, the food addict will find more time to spend with food and may spend less and less time socially interacting in a healthy way with others. Many food addicts will hide food or steal food from others so that they can secretly indulge on the foods behind closed doors.
Emotional Symptoms of Food Addiction
- feeling ashamed about your weight
- feeling depressed or sad about your weight or self-image
- feeling hopeless when it comes to losing weight
- eating when upset or depressed
- eating as a reward for a job well done
- eating when you are not hungry
- becoming anxious or irritable when eating certain foods or when not eating or if there doesn’t seem to be enough food
Food addiction can have an adverse effect on our emotions that leads to mood swings and other mental health problems. Some food addicts will suffer from great depression or anxiety as a result of their inability to control their eating habits despite a desire to eat less and to improve their self-image. Others are emotional eaters who eat just because they are happy or just because they are sad but when these emotions take over their eating slips out of control.
Types of Food Addiction
Various types of food addiction exist. Some food addictions are marked by an individual’s desire to consume large amounts of food at one time (binge eating) while others are characterized by the obsession that an individual has with food (bulimia).
The most common types of food addiction are:
- Binge eating – binge eaters will gorge themselves on large amounts of food such as sweets, salty foods or carbohydrates. They typically eat behind closed doors so that others do not know that they eat so much and they are not always binge eaters. Binge eating is usually an occasional practice and in many cases, this type of food addiction will go unnoticed for many years because the individual will exercise or perform other actions to prevent from gaining excessive amounts of weight that would lead others to discovering their problem.
- Anorexia – anorexic individuals will typically limit their food intake in an effort to stay thin no matter what the cost. Many anorexic eaters will only eat once per day or may not even eat everyday and when they do eat, they only eat small portions of certain foods. Many will county how many bites they take or strictly measure the food that they place on their plates in an effort to reduce intake and monitor the amount of food that they consume.
- Bulimia – bulimic individuals will eat as much as they want when they want to eat but they will later take extreme measures to prevent from gaining weight as a result of their uncontrolled eating. They may exercise excessively to burn calories or they will take laxatives or diuretics to prevent weight gain. Excessive eating followed by vomiting is another common symptoms of Bulimia.
- General Food Addiction – some people are just generally addicted to food and do not take extreme measures to cover their addiction up or to hide the symptoms of their addiction. These people will excessively consume salty foods, sugary foods or other types of foods and such consumption is likely to lead to weight gain, health problems, and other consequences for the individual but despite the consequences, the individual continues to feel a burning desire to continue eating.
OTHER UNKNOWN ADDICTIONS: